Musically "Like a Virgin" is a dance-oriented song, composed of two hooks. Madonna's voice is heard in a high register while a continuous arrangement of drums are heard along the bassline. The lyrics of the song is ambiguous and consists of hidden innuendo. In sexual terms, the lyrics can be interpreted in different ways for different people. "Like a Virgin" received positive reviews from contemporary as well as old critics, who frequently called it as one of the defining songs for Madonna. It became her first number-one single on the Billboard Hot 100, while reaching the top of the charts in Australia, Canada and Japan and the top-ten of the other countries.
The music video portrayed Madonna sailing down the riverways of Venice in a gondola, as well as roaming around a palace wearing a white wedding dress. With the video, scholars noted Madonna's portrayal of a sexually independent woman, the symbolism of the appearance of a man with lion's mask to that of Saint Mark, and compared the eroticism of the video to the vitality of the city of Venice. Madonna has performed the song in five of her concert tours, most recent being the Confessions Tour in 2006. Majority of the time, her performances of "Like a Virgin" has been associated with strong reaction and uproar from the media.
"Like a Virgin" has been covered by a number of artists and has appeared in feature films such as Reservoir Dogs, Moulin Rouge! and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. The song is noted for its profound effect on society. Family groups sought to ban it as they believed that the song promoted sex without marriage. On the other hand, Madonna's public persona of an indomitable, sexually unashamed, supremely confident woman was widely accepted by the younger generation who emulated her style and fashion. Scholars have credited "Like a Virgin" as the song which cemented her place in the pop music scene.